September 12

Homeless shelter to open Wednesday



Neighbors of the Gift of Grace Lutheran Church at N. 40th and Meridian learned a couple of days ago that a SHARE shelter hosting up to 15 homeless men and women nightly would soon move into the church, which also houses a preschool.

This afternoon about 75 neighbors and preschool parents showed up to hear more about the SHARE shelter and to do some sharing of their own.

The shelter is a done deal and will open Wednesday, September 15, in the balcony section of the church, two floors up from Huckleberry Forest Preschool in the basement. The two communities will not share space, and the shelter will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Pastor Jami Fecher, who facilitated the meeting, said the SHARE group has a signed lease that “they can be there for a year, or gone in a day.” “They’re totally committed to making no impact. If they do, they’re gone,” said the pastor. “That was a big selling point to me. I live next door. I don’t want trouble!”

Up to 15 homeless people will sleep in this balcony space in the Gift of Grace Lutheran Church.

Three residents — Lantz, Wendell and Alex — described the 20-year-old SHARE organization, which runs 15 indoor shelters and two tent cities. “We’re not a social service organization,” said Lantz. “We’re a self-help organization.” The residents must adhere to strict rules to sleep in the shelter (see some at the end of this post).

Alex described that potential residents are screened at a SHARE office downtown, and people choose which shelter they prefer. They don’t do a background check — their main concern is whether a newcomer can respect the rules of the shelter, the host and the neighborhood. There’s communication among the SHARE shelters about rule offenders and people who have been banned.

SHARE has opened shelters recently in Green Lake and Ballard, where the discovery that a Level III sex offender was living in the shelter for weeks was on the minds of many of today’s participants, who were outraged that SHARE doesn’t do background checks and that the church didn’t require them. The SHARE representatives explained that in the Ballard shelter, the sex offender was unregistered. When he registered, the Department of Corrections notified SHARE, and the offender was kicked out.

SHARE employee Marvin said that the group has a relationship with the Department of Corrections and the sheriff’s department whereby they let SHARE know if a sex offender has reported seeking a space in a shelter. Plus, the shelter checks the list of sex offenders, and they share a list of residents with the church, so the church can check for itself. But there’s a catch: A lot of homeless people don’t have identification, and organizers have to rely on their word.

Alex said, “If you’re a registered sex offender, you can’t stay in this shelter. If they lie, they’ll be put on a barred list.” There are three designated SHARE shelters for sex offenders (the Gift of Grace won’t be among them).

These assurances didn’t seem to quell the fears of some Huckleberry Forest Preschool parents, who were particularly upset that they’d just learned that the shelter would move into the church. The preschool owners, Aida and Vedad Mahmulyin, also said they weren’t consulted about the decision and wanted to know how the church could ensure that sex offenders wouldn’t stay at the shelter. Pastor Fecher acknowledged he couldn’t make such a guarantee and reiterated that “the homeless won’t be in the space during the same time the children are.”

The pastor’s lack of communication to the community was the biggest issue of the meeting. One preschool mother summed it up when she said, “We’re not mad at SHARE, we’re mad at the church.” Many people were upset that the shelter’s move into the church was decided with no input from neighbors or the school, but only from the church congregation. A group stormed out, calling the proceedings “a farce” when the pastor affirmed that only members of the congregation should have a voice in what happens in the church.

One neighbor whose backyard abuts the church property got much applause when he addressed Pastor Fecher and the SHARE members: “When you talk about NIMBY, it really is my backyard,” said John. He described finding out about the shelter through a note stuck on his door. “I’ve always felt a sense of consideration in Wallingford, and I didn’t feel I got that,” he said. “Now I have 15 new neighbors. What you do within your walls can affect us positively and maybe negatively.”

A few neighbors were at the meeting in support of the church’s decision. One neighbor said she got adequate notification and information. Another shared the story of her own homelessness and how painful it was to hear that “just by being homeless you’re a lowlife.”

John, a neighbor who has worked with the homeless, said “the homeless community knows the people in the homeless community. We’re better off having a controlled presence, having a group that’s working hard and not just passing through the neighborhood.”

Linda, who owns Irwin’s Cafe one block from the church, also spoke up in favor of the shelter. Her cafe is open when the shelter folks show up, and she employs teenage girls who she said were much more likely targets than the preschool students. “I came here with concerns about the guys, and I’m leaving here with my concerns answered,” she said. “I think it’s almost safer for our neighborhood that we have a more controlled environment. I feel safe and good that our neighborhood is reaching out. The church did make a mistake by not being more forthright about what they were going to do.”

Pastor Fecher agreed to keep the community more involved formally from now on, and will set up meetings this week. He vowed to improve communication in the future and agreed he may have “abdicated my responsibility” in keeping the neighborhood informed. “My thinking was that SHARE has done this repeatedly and knew the best way to do this,” he said. Marvin from SHARE took responsibility for the delayed meeting.

The shelter will open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. Quiet time is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. These are among the 37 rules that participants must obey to stay in the shelter:

  • There is no loitering the neighborhood during non-shelter hours. The neighborhood has been defined with borders at Latona Ave., N. 35th St., N. 45th, and Stone Way.
  • There is no loitering in the neighborhood during shelter hours.
  • A minimum of four shelter members, incl. on in a leadership position, may be present to open the shelter.
  • No participant can enter the shelter after 9 p.m.
  • Sobriety is required when at the shelter.
  • No drugs or alcohol are allowed on church property.
  • No physical violence or verbal abuse is tolerated at the shelter.
  • If anyone leaves or is dismissed from the shelter, he’ll be escorted to the bus stop and boarded on the next bus downtown.

Organizers said that if the shelter isn’t doing what it’s says it’s doing, SHARE will shut it down, reorganize it and reopen it. Here are the circumstances under which the shelter would close the next evening and reopen only after the problem is resolved:

  • Drugs, drug paraphernalia, or alcoholic beverage containers are found and no one is identified and held accountable.
  • The shelter space is left in a disorderly/unclean state.
  • Community residents accurately report loitering or neighborhood disruptions by shelter participants.
  • Destruction, vandalizing or theft of church or neighborhood property occurs.
  • A pattern of rule violations occurs.

Pastor Fecher urged community members to call him with any concerns or input at 206-226-5299. To speak to Marvin at SHARE, call 206-448-7889.

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  1. Correction: Some stormed out when it was implied by the pastor (answering a pointed question by one of them) that if neighbors wanted a voice in the matter, they should join his church. Some quickly came to his defense – stating that this was a misunderstanding on the part of the individuals.

    No,I was there too. It was an insult to the non-memebers who were there out of concern and it is something the pastor should not have said or implied. Then again, the actions of this congregation in their leaving their neighbors out of the process clearly expressed this message w/o need for speaking it aloud.

    Otherwise, good reporting.

  2. I was there today, as well. In a nutshell, what I learned was that the neighborhood, and our very valid concerns, are merely a speedbump. SHARE and Grace Lutheran had already decided they were going to impose this on the neighborhood for at least a year, and today's meeting was simply a formality arranged to make it seem like they give a damn about what people around here feel about it.
    SHARE never provided a valid answer as to why they won’t do criminal background checks screen for sex predators. The refrain we heard in response to those concerns was that they do “self-policing.” (hey, you can trust us). Or, bringing in red herrings like no one else who uses the church or lives in the neighborhood gets screened, so why should we? Oh, and unless you attend Grace Lutheran, your concerns are not welcome here.
    Here's some free advice to SHARE and any future churches who think that doing the “Lord's work” overrides the concerns of others, who, you know, actually live here and are trying to safely raise families: if you want to welcomed into a community as a guest, try acting like one. Instead, you guys once again blindside us and try to tell us how it's gonna be.
    Anyone reading this ready to look into how to yank SHARE's public funding?

  3. Thank you for a clean, unbiased account of the meeting! It is getting ugly over on Wallyhood. This article is very clear about the information and circumstances without taking sides.

  4. Wow – I'm floored by the comment from Chelsea about the post on Wallyhood. I thought it was informational and factual, and not biased for one side or the other. Perhaps you were referring to the comments rather than the original post. If so, you should state as such, and not disparage the reputation of a solid community blog.

  5. I thinks she was making reference to the comments. Even so, I don't think the comments were all that bad either. Heated yes, ugly… maybe a few. Given the nature of the topic, most of the entries seem civil to me. A strongly expressed opinion shouldn't be taken as ugly. Passionate dialog never hurt a conversation.

  6. Thanks for your note. I listened to the portion of the recording where the participants stormed out and replaced the sentence with a more accurate account.

  7. Thank you hayduke.

    I was at the meeting also. I am appalled at the done deal and it happens in 3 days attitude. The meeting was a farce.

    There are many ways to proceed: go after SHARE funding, go after zoning and safety, fire and building codes and city and county laws, rules and regulations, contact neighborhood and city representatives; begin a paper trail of concerns, have neighbors 'watch' and document with cameras etc.. the group and their arriving and leaving (do they really all just get off a bus at 7PM and then all leave at 7 am, or is there lots of lag time and hanging around?

    Most on the wallyhood blog are upset due to lack of nootice, the preschool being impacted and the minister's supreme disregard to the community in which he has made a poor decision.

  8. The church has a prior obligation to care for another equally vulnerable population – its very young children in the preschool. A school which pays rent to the church, by the way.

    A few questions for Pastor Fecher and the congregation of Gift of God Lutheran Church – why are you overlooking your duties to care for these families with children – a group you have already made commitments to? They are clearly deeply distressed by your actions, feel you have deliberately shut them out, and possibly put them in a very difficult and potentially dangerous situation. Are they not also in need of compassion and protection? Have you allowed yourself to be swayed by SHARE's rhetoric, a group that actively teaches church partners to avoid notifying the surrounding community before opening a shelter, much solicit real community input? Is forcing such serious changes on the families in your care without even allowing them to speak their concerns to you beforehand the way that you want to conduct the work of God? Is this truly what Jesus would do?

  9. “Pastor Fecher agreed to keep the community more involved formally from now on, and will set up meetings this week. He vowed to improve communication in the future and agreed he may have “abdicated my responsibility” in keeping the neighborhood informed. “My thinking was that SHARE has done this repeatedly and knew the best way to do this,” he said. Marvin from SHARE took responsibility for the delayed meeting.”

    If SHARE cannot even do something as simple as this properly, how the heck does he think they can run a self-governing shelter properly? He has publicly noted their poor management thus far. Further issue that arise sit with the pastor and the church. It was their decision and their decision alone to go w/ SHARE.

  10. In spite of the way this came about, without input from the neighbors, which is not a good way to start at all, Wallingford has an opportunity here that we should embrace. The homeless community has many good things to bring to us. Let's move towards compassion and understanding. We can make this a great story for our neighborhood and our children.

  11. What I (and many others) don't agree w/ is partnering w/ SHARE and how they operate in general, so I cannot share in your opinion. Compassion and understanding w/o some critical thought put us on par w/ a child and I don't want a child making such decisions. I cannot put on rose-colored glasses simply because homelessness is a real and challenging problem. There are far better services for the poor for the Wallingford community to but their name behind. We shouldn't be so reckless as to blindly jump on board with the church's decision. There could have been a much broader review of the opportunities, where all members of the Wallingford community could have had a voice. So again, sorry – I'm not jumping on your bandwagon. That isn't how I make decisions.

  12. I'm glad that The Gift of Grace recognizes that there are two types of people in the world. The kind that have earned God's Grace, and the kind who don't.

    Work HARD to make sure that the untouchables remain at the fringes of our society, so they may NEVER redeem themselves.

    Thank GOD! the people around this 'church' recognize that they are the final judge of people's worthiness.

  13. The “poor pitiful me” routine is not applicable here. No one is rejecting all homeless as a monolithic group, or has even made a single denigrating remark (yours is the first, as a matter of fact.)

    What IS being discussed is whether this church notified its existing preschool and its existing neighborhood before signing up to SHARE's program, or if the church did due diligence on SHARE's track record. It is clear that neither occurred, and that Pastor Fecher is yet another church leader that has been bamboozled by this group. SHARE counsels its partners to pull these sneak attacks on neighbors, then sits back and watches all the fuss. Everyone but Scott Morrow loses.

  14. So Illuminator, if I agree w/ you, I'm on god's team. If not, I'm one of 'those'. I actually wonder how many on this congregation held their tongue on this matter for fear of being ostracized by others in the flock. We hear unanimous approval, but with this type of behavior I suspect good christians went along with the pastor to avoid this sort of damning.

    Things have really changed… use to be that people were more civil to one another and that was certainly true of those who profess a following of Jesus. Tossing around meaningless labels and not listening to the real concerns of others – I'm starting to appreciate the religious subtext of “Tommy”.

  15. The mere fact that you refer to helping the homeless as a “sneak attack” shows where your heart lies.

    Any reasonable person would be happy that good work is being done in their neighborhood. Not you, though.

  16. If the work is so good, why not get the neighbors involved with it ahead of time, then? After all, they could provide support for the shelter alongside the church. Why the secrecy, and the refusal to tell anyone ahead of time, or even get their input? Wallingford is renowned for its acceptance of diversity – they are not Woodinville, after all.

    BTW, there is more than one way to “help the homeless” besides putting them up in a space shared by a preschool. That is just a bone-headed move that has a huge potential for disaster. They could have at least picked a church without a school in it, and I think this is what is actually getting under people's skin. Not the homeless shelter per se, but the homeless shelter mixed with a preschool.

  17. You know darn well that SHARE has a history of refusing to inform neighbors ahead of time before setting up a shelter. That is not the same as “helping the homeless” by any stretch.

  18. Why do people need to be informed ahead of time?

    Because non-preferred people might walk near your house.

  19. Because getting the neighbors onboard will help you succeed. Unless you are actively seeking confrontation, that is.

  20. Unbelievable. So I guess neighborhoods also shouldn't have input into whether a Walmart, pig farm or porn shop is imposed upon them? Oh I'm sorry, was that insensitive of me to compare the “homeless” to such businesses? I mean, the homeless don't do things like car prowls, and home breakins, or take over our playgrounds and drink/do drugs/defecate, do they?

    But hey, you're such a sensitive guy with a good heart, right? How about you open up your home to a few bums then? You have no problem making your neighbors suffer them, how about yourself? Surely a you have a couch or even a spare room or two, right? So put your domicile where your mouth is. If not, then stop with the personal attacks on those who are upset about how this went down.

  21. Unfortunately, this pattern from SHARE is too familiar to those of us who live near the shelter that was shut down in Ballard. They are not telling the truth about their relationship with the Dept. of Corrections. There is no relationship. The Dept. of Corrections told us they had no procedure for informing a shelter of a sex offender who might be staying there. A homeless sex offender doesn't have an address and can register his location by merely saying something like “Ballard, near the bridge.” The sex offender at the Ballard shelter was discovered by a neighbor of the shelter, not by SHARE. This neighbor signed up for an online service that tracked sex offenders in the neighborhood. It is a total lie for SHARE to act like they discovered the sex offender after being informed by the Dept. of Corrections. When the sex offender had his mail forwarded to the shelter, the online service warned the neighbor. The neighbor informed the church and SHARE. If the sex offender had not forwarded his mail, he would have lived at the shelter indefinitely.

    The screening process consists of one member of the shelter asking the applicant a few questions. If the applicant doesn't mention that he is a sex offender, the shelter won't know and will readily admit the sex offender. They are not serious about screening for sex offenders. A real check for sex offender status seems like a minimal courtesy the church and SHARE owe to the neighborhood.

  22. your meeting and situation in Wallingford is an exact repeat of Greenlake – we were not informed – the decision to house homeless was already decided upon long ago. The meeting that was sponsored by the church and their wonderful minister and his and fellow SHARE people was a mere formality. The meeting was held I believe 2 days prior to the homeless moving in. Of course the minister said he understood our concerns such that he promised a 30 day follow up meeting with the neighbors – how stupid was I to think that the meeting would actually happen. Of course there was never a follow up meeting. So much for his “concern” for the people who actually live in the neighborhood – bottom line they do not care what we the neighbors think. that message has come across loud and clear, even more now since the way Wallingford has been handled. Our meeting was a farce as well. the anger was not so much with the fact that homeless people were coming – it was how it was handled by the church- plain and simple.

  23. When Nickelsville moved into the parking lot at 50th and 15th, it happened in exactly the same way, with one exception – the “meeting” happened after they had already moved in.

    You will hear this same story repeated by nearly every other shelter that SHARE has set up within the last few years. SHARE has an active policy of convincing churches to bypass their communities and make a unilateral decision.

  24. Then we as the larger Seattle community need to say 'enough' to SHARE. We need to organize and hold them accountable.

  25. Blog entry from a former SHARE resident:
    mike // Dec 15, 2009 at 10:39 pm
    My girlfriend and I both lived in both tc3 and tc4 for over 5 years. We finale moved to Spokane to get permanent housing. We’ve had our own apartment for 3 years. I spent more time on the Executive Committee then most. The main reason we left tent city and came to Spokane was because what was going on in camp. Three years ago while at St. Georges in Lake City those of us on EC started seeing thing going out of control. We decided to clean the camp. We barred those using drugs and drinking in camp, we also got rid of the people stealing donations so they could sell them. Thing were going well for about a week. Scott Morrow who was in charge came in and barred 3 of the EC saying they were trying to take over the camp and said they had to much power over others. I stayed on there for 5 more months. We were told not to call the police for any reason unless Scott or Leo Rhodes. They said we needed to keep the population in camp up no matter what. They also stated if we called the police for any type of help it would make their record look bad, so we couldn’t call even at the risk of our safety. We watched cash donations meant for camp use go to Scott for gas and insurance for his car and to be used to buy him food. He passed up good, Guaranteed camp sites because it wouldn’t get Tent City enough press time. We were not allowed to update the sex offender list and had to use outdated lists. We had 3 people elected to EC in 6 months that were on that list. To keep crime from being linked to the camp people were allowed to sign in to camp without Id. They would also edit the list when someone got in trouble. At Cherry Hill church we were told to take in two couples with kids they stayed for 3 weeks. We also had an overdose by a man named Birch yet he was allowed back in camp. Three months later at Haller Lake the same man while on drugs tried to kick in the door to the church’s daycare next door saying they took his kids. None of it was reported to the police because the church did not want to cause problems for Tent City. There’s a lot of things that happen there that’s unreported.
    Scott Morrow was not the founder of the first tent city he was a leach that took over.
    Yes Leo Rhodes not only lives at TC4 he signs the checks for ShareWheel.
    The site at the park was chosen by TC3 3 years ago but regected because they felt it would not get enough press time. TC3 helped reclaim a piece of the park from the weeds that are taking over there with the help of other voluntiers. It rained like hell that day. So you can check if you want. When you go behind the center at day break you go down a little hill to a path go right walk about 300-500 feet take first left go down the hill 20 feet follow the tree line right you’ll find a cement pad enclosed by trees that we were going to put the tents on. There’s a water spout there in the open area and go down the hill you’ll find a little lake. Watch out iy floods there.
    The reason Share won’t be part of Safe Harbors is because the city could track who stays there. People would have proof tent city doesn’t all ways do sex offender checks., and let in people they know have warrents. I’ve seen people give the EC $20 not to check the sex offender list, Thats how 3 sex offenders were able to get in camp and serve on EC.
    While at tent city I tried to update the perment bar list but was stopped by Scott because too many people were on it and it kept the count to low. So now people can get to day break even if they were distructive and violent at Tent City.
    How many of the bus tickets meant for tent city are going to make it to this new place. That’s one of the ways Share gets people, by giving out tickets for people to sell when they save enough. Ask Scott about the time the bus tickets were stolen from the office by a staff member. Or the money stolen by one of the board members. Ask as well why he’s barred from all but one Share shelter.

  26. MyBallard blog entry about SHARE:
    Truth Detector 12 months ago
    SHARE is lying.
    They have had problems with sex offenders. The documented cases are endless and are part of the public record that has resulted in Tent City 4 being required to run these checks at every location they go to (however there is no evidence SHARE is running these checks on anything but a token basis).
    An example is the very first location where SHARE put Tent City 4 in Bothell. A sex offender with repeat offender status had been living in Tent City 3 for some time. He was stalking a resident of the camp. That resident moved to Tent City 4 for safety reasons. She was followed there by this sex offender who continued to stalk her. Eventually he caught her alone and raped her.
    When St Brendon’s church was contacted to inform them of the rape, and was asked for help for the victim, their response was to send their lawyer down to make sure they were not liable.
    There is nothing “unamerican” about running a sex offender check before allowing someone to be unsupervised in a shelter located in a residential community. In fact it is unamerican to hide this information from people as SHARE does. SHARE instructs Sex Offenders to give their address as homeless and never as their camps or shelters in order to undermine the system that would require notification.
    It is because of this system that the community found out about this repeat offender who preys on children. SHARE knew about it but refused to do anything until it became public knowledge and the media reported on it.
    If the community wants a shelter for unsupervised sex offenders in their community then there is no problem. But you can not treat all homeless the same just like you can’t treat all of the population the same. We have laws regarding where sex offenders can and can’t live for a reason, and SHARE being an atheist and socialist group doesn’t care about those laws and in fact is active in constantly breaking them.
    They do not have a track record of honesty and trustworthiness so no one should EVER take them at their word on anything.

  27. From Seattle Time archives:
    “Last night SHARE/WHEEL member Anitra Freeman said that homeless people and the community should not be swayed by some vocal opponents into changing plans for the camp’s location.
    “You, as church people, know that you have to stand up for what is right,” Freeman said. “Letting people win by throwing temper tantrums is never a good idea, whether you are dealing with kids or adults.”
    Last minute notifications, keeping us in the dark, and done-deal agreements all dictated to the church by SHARE, are intentionally used to ramp-up the emotions of the neighbors. In the background, SHARE is grooming the church leaders with comments like the above. We’ve been played people.

  28. This is a dozen people we're talking about. Walmart would bring thousands daily; A bit different.

    A pig farm? What exactly do you think homeless people are?

    A porn shop? It almost seems like you believe homeless people are sexually depraved, non-hygienic, and travel in packs.

    I was homeless once. It happens. You assume the worst about these PEOPLE you haven't even met.

    My neighbors wouldn't consider it “suffering” them; and if they did, I would wonder why my neighbors felt they were so much better than these others.

    I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you were asked to house the homeless people in your own home. I thought they were gonna stay in your neighborhood. Obviously, you will want to get to know someone before you let them into your home. Until you do THAT however, monitor your treatment of these people you feel are so beneath your consideration.

    Maybe you'll be homeless in the future. How would you feel if “The Beautifuls” assumed about you that which you have convicted these people?

  29. Well, I too was homeless for a period. So what? You sound like a bitter person and your reasoning and argument skills are not all that impressive, to boot. I bettered my situation, Hope you have, too. Now if you could only work on some of your personality and logic skills. People like you give homelessness a bad name. Really, you do.

    I will agree, homeless people are a pretty diverse bunch. I met a lot of jerks who were homeless. Have we met?

    In closing, don't stick up for me. You don't speak for me or the others I've met. I've tried to surround myself w/ smart lighthearted people who don't fly off the handle and dissect blog posts for stuff that isn't there.

    No need to read between the lines on this post. Illuminator… is that some kind of joke?

  30. I give. You're correct. Everyone should be able to choose their neighbors. And, our neighbors should be able to demand background checks on any overnight guests we may decide to entertain. What was I thinking.

  31. Good. Glad to have helped. I can see you clearly and logically deduced my comments and came to the exact conclusion I was hoping for. I can sense that life is difficult for you and I can understand why given the leaps in logic that you continue to make on your posts. Oh, and thanks for the answer to my question… your handle is a joke. Pretty funny. I think we might actually get a long. I like sarcasm.

  32. ” The SHARE representatives explained that in the Ballard shelter, the sex offender was unregistered. When he registered, the Department of Corrections notified SHARE, and the offender was kicked out.”

    BS. A neighbor (I know) found out and informed the church who informed SHARE.

  33. Hey, if you want to risk the lives of homeless by forcing them to share space with rapists, be my guest.

  34. There are 16 sex offenders within a mile of the church already according to the King County web site, 3 of whom are non-compliant. The numbers might be scewed a little high since many of them use hotels on aurora as their “home” address but don't live there.

  35. I'm homeless. Right NOW, and I would avoid a church with a preschool in it like the plauge, out of common sense.

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